Syllabus Section: Environment, Ecology & Biodiversity


Why in news?

A first-of-its-kind study by the Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has projected that numbers of the Malayan Giant Squirrel (Ratufa bicolor) could decline by 90 per cent in India by 2050, and if urgent steps are not taken, the species could be extinct in the country in subsequent decades.

Key findings of the survey:

• The population of the squirrel in India has declined by 30 per cent over the last two decades.

• Only 43.38 per cent of the squirrel’s original habitat in India is now favorable to it and  by 2050, the favorable zone could shrink to 2.94 per cent of the area the species was meant to inhabit.

• According to the study, the Malayan Giant Squirrel and its habitat are under threat from deforestation, fragmentation of forests, crop cultivation and over-harvesting of food, illegal trade in wildlife, and hunting for consumption. Slash-and-burn jhum cultivation in many areas of the Northeast contributes to destruction of its habitat.

About Malayan giant squirrel

• The Malayan Giant Squirrel is one of the world's largest squirrel species. it has a dark upper body, pale under parts, and a long bushy tail.

• The Malayan Squirrel is listed as “Near Threatened” on IUCN 2016 list and is listed as “protected” under India Wildlife Protection Act

• It is considered to be a “forest health indicator species” as their population indicates the health of the forest, of the vegetation and plants in the forest on which the species feeds, as well as that of the other symbiotic species that inhabit the region.

• Unlike the nocturnal flying squirrels, giant squirrels are diurnal, but arboreal (tree-dwelling) and herbivorous like the flying squirrels.

• It is currently found in parts of West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Nagaland in India.

• India is home to three giant squirrel species; the other two – Indian Giant Squirrel and Grizzled Giant Squirrel – are found in peninsular India.

• The Malayan Giant Squirrel is also distributed through Southern China, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, the Malayan Peninsula, Sumatra, and Java. It is found mostly in evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, from plains to hills at elevations of 50 m to 1,500 m above sea level.


Source: The Indian Express

The Malayan Squirrel is listed as “Near Threatened” on IUCN 2016 list and is listed as “protected” under India Wildlife Protection Act